Greatest Drives Latest

  • Around the Coast in 8 Days
    Amazing coast drive using only A & B roads and keeping the sea in view wherever possible all in the target of 8 days. We did this nutty trip to raise funds for the Motor Neurone Association of Great Britain and raised the sum of £4000+...
    by SeanM at April 13th, 2013 at 3:35pm
  • Northumberland National Park
    We drove this route on the way back from Edinburgh en route to York. Northumberland is a relatively hilly national park but this is why the A68 is so much fun. A short while after Jedburgh to the north you cross the summit of a mountain range where the Sc...
    by electrobooks at April 6th, 2013 at 10:12pm
  • Dartmoor National Park
    The B3357/B3212 between Tavistock and Moretonhampstead is a cracking little blast over Dartmoor encompassing some great views, fast sweeping bends over some serious elevation change and an abundance of sheep all in one handy package. This makes for a fas...
    by SilverArrows at January 4th, 2013 at 12:09pm

Car News Latest

  • Behind the scenes at the world windscreen repair championships Sunday 19th August 2018
    World windscreen repair championships
    Millar works fast but methodically under the judge’s scrutiny
    Windscreen replacement specialists gather for the ultimate showdown, where one will be crowned world champion

    “My trainers told me they were going to break and rebuild me,” says Dave Lyth. “I lost three stone. It takes over your life.”

    The former UK and European champion, and world number three, turns his gaze back to Ryan Millar, his colleague, working quickly and expertly under the watchful eyes of two clipboard-wielding judges, within a precisely marked-out space he cannot leave and we cannot enter.

    “I’m feeling good,” Ryan had told me an hour before he went into the ‘ring’, here at the giant Frankfurt Messe exhibition complex. “Me and Billy Johnston, my trainer, have been practising ever since I won the UK title last October.”

    Welcome to the world windscreen repair championships or, as the organisers call it, the Best of Belron. Best of Autoglass would have been clearer except that Autoglass is just one of a number of vehicle glass repair companies operating under different names in over 30 countries (for example, Safelite in the US, O’Brien in Australia and Carglass elsewhere in Europe and Russia), all of them owned by UK-based Belron International Ltd.

    Every two years, the group’s technicians who have won their country’s national championship converge at a major international location to compete for the Best of Belron world title. This year, the football World Cup might have been taking place in Russia but its windscreen repair equivalent was happening right here in Frankfurt.

    In fact, not only windscreens but also rear and side glass, and recalibration of the cameras at the heart of the advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) disturbed by the removal and replacement of the windscreen. Each technician is scrutinised by a team of two judges keen to see they’re following the Belron way, a system contestants ignore at their peril.

    “I’m looking for adherence to the process,” says head judge Darren Hunter. “For example, there are 40 steps to windscreen replacement alone. Also, I want to see first-class interaction with the judges who play the role of the customer.”

    The technicians compete in rows of marked-off spaces, each containing a workstation and a gleaming Audi A4. I arrive on the competition’s second day when they must remove, replace and recalibrate the car’s windscreen in 90min. Points are deducted for running over time as well as deviating from the Belron way. It’s high-pressure stuff, with each competitor observed not only by the judges but also by their fellow Belron countrymen and women. Each time a windscreen is removed and replaced, they cheer loudly.

    As much as it encourages their competitor, it also panics rivals, hopefully forcing them to fluff the process and drop points. At least, that appears to be the intention...

    “They won’t bother Ryan,” says Johnston. “He’s a retained firefighter and as cool as a cucumber. He’ll be too busy concentrating.”

    That much is obvious as, clock ticking, Ryan Millar deftly prepares his A4’s new windscreen and wipes clean the suckers that will grip the glass as he lifts it from the worktable.

    An experienced tech watching Millar alongside me recalls how in the old days, you could climb into the passenger seat, put your feet on the windscreen and push it out. Not any more. Instead, Ryan assembles a complex web of pulleys wound with Belron’s special Ezi-Wire fibreline that cuts through the windscreen bonding like cheesewire.

    With the old screen removed, he prepares the channel for the new glass. Taking it to the car and manoeuvring it into place is a delicate operation. Earlier, I’d visited glass supplier Pilkington’s stand in the adjacent exhibition hall and saw just how thin a modern windscreen is. It was from a current-model BMW 5 Series. The outer layer of glass was 1.8mm thick but the inner layer was just 1.4mm. On the previous model, both layers would have been 1.8mm and the windscreen itself 15% heavier.

    Windscreen and scuttle both in place, Millar is ready to recalibrate the ADAS camera mounted in the A4’s rear-view mirror assembly. Because the car’s battery is likely to have been drained slightly by the doors being left open, he hooks up a separate power source. If he didn’t, there’d be a risk the Audi’s battery would run into management mode, closing down the ADAS system.

    Millar now checks the A4’s tyre pressures and pushes down on each corner of the car to check it’s sitting level and at the right height. Some manufacturers insist their car has a full tank of fuel as part of establishing the vehicle’s correct height for recalibration. With the car sitting just right, he stands a large target board (each car maker has its own design) in front of the A4 and recalibrates the ADAS camera to factory settings. And then, but for general tidying up, he’s done.

    “I’m tired but proud to have represented my country and my colleagues,” Millar tells me. “I don’t do nerves. I just went in and did my best.”

    Steve Marelli, his colleague who won the world title in 2012, says winning is a big deal. “I’ve worked in over 10 Belron territories since my victory. I’ve done TV ads, roadshow demos... It was a huge career boost and now I’m an operations manager.”

    I’ve got to catch a plane so I miss the awards ceremony. My phone pings a message as I land at Heathrow: ‘Ryan got a runner-up position. A great result!’

    Absolutely, but judging by the determined look in his eyes earlier in the day, I bet he’s just a little bit disappointed at losing out to Rick Beasley of Safelite America. He has no need to be. If my car has picked up a chipped windscreen in the short stay car park, I know who to call. 

    It’s getting more sophisticated: 

    Taxiarchis Konstantopoulos, managing director of Autoglass, says that although there was an increase this summer in cracked windscreens caused by air-con systems chilling hot glass weakened by a pre-existing stonechip, there has been a slight decline in call-outs in recent years.

    “Motorists’ average speeds have fallen due to speed cameras,” he says. “Also, more people are leaving their cars at home and cycling to work or taking the train.”

    He says his business is becoming more sophisticated. First, there was the company’s launch, in 2015, of its ADAS recalibration service (“insurers took a lot of persuading”) and it is currently developing artificial intelligence (AI).

    “We’ll use AI to interpret customers’ photographs of their cars’ body damage and chipped screens and generate a quotation. It’ll make the customer journey slick and simple.”

    John Evans

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  • Volkswagen Arteon long-term review Saturday 18th August 2018
    Volkswagen Arteon 2018 long-term review hero front Is this a shrewd, lower-cost route to sleek four-door luxury motoring? Let’s find out

    Why we’re running it: To see if a cut-price luxury offering can be as urbane to live with as it is to look at

    Month 1 - Specs

    Life with a Volkswagen Arteon: Month 1

    Welcoming the Arteon to our fleet – 27th June 2018

    The Arteon is a curious thing, and not only because it’s pure motor show concept from the front but looks like a taxi when viewed side on.

    Notwithstanding the fantastically slippery XL1 plugin hybrid of 2013, this is the most dramatic design Volkswagen has given us in modern times. And putting aside for a moment the new Touareg SUV, with which the Arteon shares so much of it general aesthetic, it’s also VW’s flagship offering.

    It’s a level of status at odds with the reality that success for this car largely hinges on its suitability to motorway drudgery. It’s your silver-plated porridge spoon, if you like.

    This particular Arteon’s specification differs from the norm, mind. A diet of diesel has long been the preference for big-mileage executive saloons, but our fresh-faced long-term test car is propelled by the backstop of the engine lineup: the turbocharged 1.5-litre TSI Evo petrol engine. In a Golf, it’s a compelling proposition and one we’re particularly fond of, with a levity that makes spinning it out a satisfying endeavour but enough torque to ensure you’re never asked to work particularly hard for swift progress.

    In the Golf, it can also deactivate two of its four cylinders under light throttle loads between 1400rpm and 4000rpm for improved fuel efficiency, and the same is true for the Arteon. Whether its outputs of 148bhp and 184lb ft are as suited to a four-door fastback some 350kg heavier than the hatch is something we’ll discover in due course.

    Combined fuel economy is quoted at 48.7mpg (the most efficient model in the range, a similarly powerful 2.0-litre diesel, is quoted at 65.7mpg) with CO2 emissions of 131g/km. With a 66-litre fuel tank, that’s good enough for a range of more than 700 miles.

    Meanwhile, the claimed 0-62mph is 8.9sec, which although far from shameful doesn’t quite cash the cheque written by the assertive front-end design.

    The spec we’ve gone for is the entry-level Elegance, which is one of only two available in the UK, the other being R-Line. We’ll be swapping one for t’other in a few months’ time, but for now our Arteon cuts a more restrained figure, and does without gloss black air intakes, aggressive bumpers and 19in wheels. The paint is a metallic shade called Chilli Red and costs £595.

    You can buy an Arteon variously with a manual transmission and with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, but ours channels power to the front axle alone, and through a seven-speed dual-clutch ’box that can either be left alone or controlled through a pair of stubby steering-wheel-mounted paddles. 4Motion models come with active DCC dampers and a 15mm drop in ride height as standard, although our car uses a passive set-up.

    Inside, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, with the stark, clean, expansive architecture left slightly hanging by a range of materials and finishes – notably gloss black and aluminium – that don’t do an awful lot to excite. There’s also a strong whiff of Passat in there, which isn’t surprising given that’s the model with which the Arteon shares its basic construction.

    The nappa leather seats, meanwhile, are VW’s ergoComfort models with electric adjustment for the backs and lumbar support but manual levers for height and reach. You’d get exactly the same shape in an R-Line Arteon.

    We’ve been sparing with optional extras in an attempt to hone the Arteon’s appeal as a value proposition relative to its lavish overtones. It means that along with the paint, the only other boxes we’ve ticked are those for the £900 keyless entry with the electric tailgate, which can be opened by swiping your foot beneath the rear bumper, and a £315 rear-view camera. You might have expected VW to throw in a rear-view camera for ‘free’, given this is its flagship saloon, but no.

    One tempting option we didn’t elect for is VW’s £985 Discover Navigation Pro infotainment system, and there’s a good reason why we’ve settled for the standard 8.0in display. Fact is, superb as the 9.2in glass touchscreen of the Pro might look, it does without any physical buttons or switches, so there are no scrolling dials for quick, sightless adjustments to volume and navigation zoom. We’re also far from convinced with VW’s efforts to implement gesture control, which are still hampered by inconsistent response.

    As it is, the total outlay was £34,555, which places the car, well, where among the alternatives, exactly? You could buy a base-spec Audi A5 Sportback SE for few grand less, but we reckon you’d need to spend at least £38,500 to spec it to a similar level as our Arteon. For one thing, the VW is equipped as standard not only with a 12.3in digital instrument binnacle but also a range of safety-oriented technologies such as predictive cruise control, lane-assist, pedestrian monitoring and emergency braking at city speeds.

    Of course, there’s an indefinable element to luxury that has little or nothing to do with value for money. What we’ll endeavour to discover during the next few months is whether this car has it or if those who crave the sophisticated aura of a ‘four-door coupé’ and view Arteon ownership as an inexpensive way in should steer clear.

    Second Opinion

    I wasn’t a big fan of that wing-shaped front grille on our R-Line road test car, but something about its look on this Elegance-spec long-term test car appeals more to me. And I love the way the chrome bars run over the headlights.

    Richard Lane

    Back to the top

    Volkswagen Arteon 1.5 TSI EVO Elegance specification

    Specs: Price New £32,745 Price as tested: £34,555 Options: Metallic paint £595, keyless entry and hands-free tailgate operation £900, rear-view camera £315

    Test Data: Engine 1498cc, 4-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol Power 147bhp at 5000rpm Torque 184lb ft at 1500rpm Top speed 138mph 0-62mph 8.7sec Claimed fuel economy 54.3mpg Test fuel economy xxx CO2 119g/km Faults None Expenses None

    Back to the top

  • Turning a VW Beetle into a beach buggy for £1250 Saturday 18th August 2018
    Beach buggy
    It’s built for sand but is small and nimble so ideal in town
    A beach buggy makes the world a happier place, and you don't need sand to enjoy one - just the chassis from a VW Beetle and the desire to tinker around

    People who buy Lamborghini Aventadors and then drive them backwards and forwards outside Harrods are seeking attention.

    Fine, but they’ve got it wrong. If you want to rack up a serious eyeball count, you need a beach buggy. Furthermore, if people are saying nice things about your choice of motor, you can’t hear them in an Aventador.

    You can in a beach buggy: I know because a lot of people have been complimenting me on my choice of wheels. And shirt.

    Back in 1970, the Sprinkle family moved to the UK from the US and sent their two sons to the school I was at. Along with the boys, Mr and Mrs Sprinkle brought with them their daughter Susanne, who made a major impression on me, and their beach buggy.

    I still have a vague memory of Susanne, but a very accurate mental picture of the buggy. Metalflake purple, big chrome roll-over bar, huge tyres and a loud exhaust. We all had Hot Wheels beach buggies but one in full size, in our school car park among Morris Minors and Ford Anglias, was unbelievable.

    Beach buggies were big in California but we hadn’t seen one in Woking. That would change within a year or so as these minimalist machines caught on in Britain. I don’t know what make of beach buggy the Sprinkles owned but it’s very similar to the one I’m driving now. This red metalflake marvel is owned by James May, who has had it restored after it was on the Grand Tour programme.

    My working world these days is full of infotainment, smartphone mirroring and lots of technology to do with electric cars that I don’t fully understand. It’s going to give me a great deal of pleasure to describe to you the technical spec of May’s buggy. Proper old-school stuff.

    The glassfibre body is a Prowler, which is essentially a copy of a GP body, which, as all beach buggies have been, is a copy of the original Meyers Manx. The body is ultra simple, with no doors or openings, and literally bolts to a Volkswagen Beetle chassis. Unless you’re building a long-wheelbase buggy, which doesn’t look quite right, you have to cut and shut the floorpan.

    This buggy was built using a brand-new body by a company in Birmingham called Kingfisher Kustoms, which is run by lifetime buggy enthusiast Dave Fisher. Built to stand abuse from motoring TV stars, it uses an independent rear suspension from a 1302 ‘Super Beetle’, CV joints from a Type 2 van (they’re stronger and allow more travel) and rear hubs from a VW Type 181 ‘Thing’. At the front, there are disc brakes from a standard Beetle but with four-to-five stud adaptors. The tyres are suitably podgy 215/60 R15s at the front and 275/50 R15s rear.

    The engine is bored out to 1776cc, has big-valve twin-port heads, each of which wears a Weber 40 IDF carb, and breathes out through Supertapp mufflers. The cam is an Engle 110, the pistons by Mahle and the crankshaft standard VW. To top it off, the whole lot has been lightened and balanced. It hasn’t been on the dyno but the output is guessed to be about 100bhp.

    The car hasn’t been on the scales, either, but I’d guess at no more than 650kg. It feels very light when you push it around and it feels light to drive. Now, I’m not claiming Lotus- Elise-like handling for the buggy but it feels fabulously light on its feet, with light and direct steering, a ride that’s good by modern standards and acceleration that is probably lousy against a watch but feels very sprightly through the trousers. The motor is torquey, with great throttle response once it’s warmed up.

    But where’s the beach? I haven’t looked into it but I suspect that finding an expanse of sand on which the car could live up to its name is very difficult unless you live in Scotland or near Pendine Sands in Wales.

    Churning up sand is not environmentally friendly. It’s the same problem that owners of Ariel’s Nomad must have: where to use it. Actually, the Nomad is rather like a modern beach buggy. Simple, minimalist, light and fun. Removed from modern, highly complex supercars that have performance that’s unaccessible on the road.

    Lack of sand isn’t a problem. A beach buggy is fun anywhere, even in central London. Small, squat, nimble and easy to literally hop in and out of, it’s the perfect urban transport. Especially if it’s sunny.

    Three famous buggy drivers: 

    Steve McQueen might be more famous for driving a Mustang in Bullitt, but don’t forget The Thomas Crown Affair, in which McQueen thrashed around the dunes in a beach buggy with Faye Dunaway in the passenger seat.

    The father of the beach buggy is Bruce Meyers, a surfer, engineer and artist who used his experience in building GRP boats to create the first Meyers Manx buggy in 1964. He’s still going strong, aged 92.

    Elvis Presley drove a Meyers Manx in his 1968 Live A Little, Love A Little film. Toy company AMT built a model of the car; just one of dozens of buggy models produced in the 1960s and 1970s.

    Read more

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